Paris Transatlantic review by Jason Bivins

Marty Ehrlich’s Rites Quartet – FROG LEG LOGIC (CF 242)
As a longtime Ehrlich freak, I was knocked out by the debut recording from this fine, Hemphill-inspired group. On Frog Leg Logic, Ehrlich is back along with trumpeter James Zollar, both in slashing form here. But there’s a change in the cello and drum chair, from Erik Friedlander and Pheeroan akLaff to Hank Roberts and Michael Sarin. The bustle and swagger of the title track opens this disc in righteous fashion, with cracking percussion the fuel to the multiple lines that whip around. Ehrlich’s always got a heart-rending lyrical tale to tell, as with the superb reading of “Ballade” here (kudos to Zollar for nailing the harmonic / emotional interface so brightly and vividly). And when it opens up into a bubbly, mid-tempo funk it kills. Atop the supple groove, there are tasty bent notes from both horns, digging into the space between the beats in ways both raunchy and elegant. Roberts is key to these grooving sections, by the way, and to the whole disc. His deep, soulful melancholy combines with a percolating funk and occasional flurries of noise, and he can totally carry an unaccompanied spot. His countrified sound opens “Solace”, a longtime Ehrlich fave here given a spare arrangement that emphasizes the brass and the rattling timbre Sarin contributes (with Ehrlich contrasting gracefully on flute). At a tight 50 minutes, this disc has the logic and pacing of a live set. And the band has even more range here than on their debut, taking in styles as far-flung as the tart, slightly keening alto / cello duet “My Song” and the vaguely ominous “Walk Along the Way”, with low tuned drums, grunting bridgework from Roberts, and all manner of growls and animal sounds. But at the end of the day, it’s the groove pieces that get me, like the bright bounce of “You Can Beat the Slanted Cards” and the funky “The Gravedigger’s Respite”. More, please.

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